Advent #1: Christmas Is Not Your Birthday!

Mike Slaughter, Author and Pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio, authored a book by the same title as the title of this entry.  In short, his goal is to push people in the same way he did his congregation, to think about Christmas differently.  Instead of honoring ourselves on the day which we celebrate as the incarnation of God, why don’t we honor God?  You have all heard me and my opinions about Christmas and the consumerist season it has become, so I won’t continue that here.  I’ll just leave you with the following quotation which I think sums it up pretty well from Rev. Slaughter’s book, “In our attempts to create the magical Christmas experience we run ourselves into the ground emotionally, physically, financially, and relationally.  Then, after weeks of pressure and preparation, all for the purpose of creating one perfect day in an imperfect year, someone’s upset because they didn’t get the present they wanted, a toy is already broken, Grandpa drank too  much, and Dad called Grandma the B-word.”

I will instead offer the challenge to the Cherokee Springs and Liberty UMCs (and anyone else who reads this blog) and share some of the work the Ginghamburg Church has done in the Sudan project.  Here is a little background…

In Darfur, Sudan, 300,000 to 400,000 people have died since 2003 as a result of civil unrest, lack of food and disease. More than 2.5 million children, women and men are refugees, with little food, drinkable water, protection or hope.   The U.N. identified Darfur as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.  The Ginghamsburg Church responded by taking this on as a mission opportunity.  Pastor Slaughter (I love that name for a pastor by the way) challenged his congregation to spend half of what they would normally spend on Christmas and give the other half to the Sudan Project.  Since 2004, the church has raised millions for schools, clean water projects, and sustainable agricultural projects.  The 2010 project raised over 700,000 dollars which served more than 24,000 children in the “child development and protection program.”  Additionally, money was provided to give “water yards” which will provide clean water to 219,000 MORE people, which is the most critical health need in the region.  Here is an overview of the 2010 project with good background from the entire history of the project.

You may point out the obvious that we don’t have 4,500 members like Ginghamsburg.  Correct.  But we are still called to the same task.  Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  So this Christmas, we’ll be thinking about Christmas differently.  We are going to have a similar offering; the “Christmas is not your birthday” offering.  We are going to honor God by honoring those whom God calls us to serve….remember “the least of these” from last week?  What if we also give to God as much as we give in presents?  What if we invest our money not only in the latest gadget for the gadget lovers in our lives but into the lives of missionaries serving around the world seeking to spread the message of Gospel hope?  What if we bless a local organization whose sole mission is to provide for the needs of under priviledged children?  What if we fund the entire budget for a month at a local soup kitchen or food pantry?  What if we become a partnering church with Ginhamsburg Church and The Sudan Project?  Talk about the perfect Christmas present!  These and others are possibilities if we will be faithful to our calling as Christians….

Blessings for the journey,

Christmas is not your birthday!



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